Sunday, June 12, 2011

A comment that just grew and grew...

I began writing a comment to a post over on Provoked (a superlative blog authored by Bea Elliot) and suddenly had written too much to be contained in a comment. I could have, I guess, split it into multiple parts and “commented” but it seems easier to just post it here.

Bea (and companions), on behalf of all the animals that are terrorized, injured, killed and disrespected because of human animals needing to gain attention and to 'show-off' to counter their own deficient self-esteem...thank you for speaking up for them.

The rodeo subculture is a tough least tough in the sense that there aren't a lot of rodeo philosophers around…self-reflection and self-awareness is often viewed with suspicion. They, quite often, are folks that have been bewitched by the Hollywood version of the "old west" other words they believe in fairy tales. You know the fantasies like "Out west where men are men and women are women" or "Ain't never been a horse that couldn't be broke." or "John Wayne was a hero." (instead of the WWII draft dodger he actually was) or "Cowboys 'tamed' the west." On and on and on...Moviemakers and novelists have been making a living at selling these fantasies for decades.

Now you and your group showed up to yank the fantasies away from these poor folk of the earth who work hard all day (some exploiting, hurting and killing animals). Their fantasies that no one is cruel to an animal at a rodeo, that it is a 'sport', that it is a 'tradition', that it is a fair 'competition' and that maybe the animals enjoy it too. On top of that they have invested a lot of time and money in the cowboy costumes and you're trying to take away their dress-up fun…or at least to make it that they are copying the dress and behaviors of a serial rapist/murder instead of some Hollywood designated admirable type person/group.

Most (all) of these folks see animals as inferior to them and presenting information that suggests that this is inaccurate strikes them as a mortal insult. Anyway, if they couldn't look down on animals, who are they going to look down on (referencing Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill A Mockingbird”)? Suggesting to them that they are 'mean' to animals is just outrageous (to them), why...that isn't part of the cowboy fantasy...cowboys always stand up for the weak and the helpless and the powerless...don't they?

Well actually no, cowboys were casual laborers that helped the rich owners kill relatively powerless animals for profit...but don't tell the fantasy believer that. That's like telling a 3 year old there is no tooth fairy or Santa Claus is a pervert. Doing that is seen as being mean and cruel. Taking fantasies away from a 3 year old driving big pickups and chewing tobacco and wearing funny hats could be an exciting if not risky y'all discovered.

You wrote: “But many of these trucks with tires taller than my vehicle - spit and threw used chewing tobacco at us. They shouted obscenities. They cussed and gave us the finger... They spun their wheels so as to kick up pebbles and rocks in our faces... The gunned their engines and left clouds of black smoke as they sped off towards the parking lot. Many had children in the cars as well. They were brutish. Angry. Aggressive and hostile.”

Yup, cowboying was (and is) brutish and hurtful and domineering if you were (or are) a cow or a horse. Don't confuse the Hollywood myth with the reality of what it was and is. Cowboying is a term referencing the imprisoning, exploiting, hurting and killing of cows for money and of the using of horses to assist in this exploitation (exploiting the horses in the process too). These are not nice and gentle and life-affirming things to do. Human animals who do these things are going to be, by necessity, stained and distorted and twisted by acting this way.

Good for you and everyone that participated in the demonstration. You are brave and caring and bold folks and I'm very glad that none of you were hurt (cowboys (Hollywood again) often don't 'need no ‘stinkin law', they settle things with their fists or a gun).

An analogy that is fairly close would be if y'all went to a Hell's Angels meeting and protested about the evils of motorcycles. This is their identity and if you take away the toys (motorcycles or animals) and make their costumes represent something undesirable then playtime isn't nearly as much 'fun'. And guess who the spoilsport is…

Now, in point of fact, many of those participants in the rodeo subculture know what they are doing is wrong and despicable but are actively denying this to themselves and to others...that's partly why any criticisms or objections are met with so forcefully and vehemently. When they were children they were probably still sensitive to and aware of the suffering of the animals...but they were taught over and over to suppress their empathy and awareness sense of justice and compassion. They were taught that to be a 'man' or a 'grown-up' they had to do that.

Perhaps one of the most important things that your demonstration did was to let those children know that all grown-ups do not see things the way they are being told to see things. All adults don't ignore the suffering of the animals; there are people that view all of that cowboy/rodeo stuff differently. The children had a glimpse of the fact that there are choices...that hurting or crying for the baby cows being jerked off their feet isn’t weird. The children were shown that some adults don't ignore their feeling for their fellow animals...and maybe they don't have to either.

You folks presented an example of a way of being grown-up and adult and compassionate and fair and just...that wasn't the cowboy way…it really isn’t the “American” way except “officially”…that sort of stuff is what we tell ourselves (and others) that we are but rare indeed is the occasion that we actually behave that way…and if we do live up to our own fairytale about ourselves…it is often only briefly. Jeez, women got the vote here only about 90 years ago (they were considered too ‘soft-hearted’ and ‘soft-headed’ to handle such a manly thing as voting). This is a society that only since the 1960’s has provided some degree of effective support for the right of African-American citizens to vote. And all you have to do is look at some of the shenanigans that went on in Florida a few years ago to know that “voting” and “democracy” is often an ideal that lip service is directed toward, not a reality.

I consider it a real triumph of enlightened maturity and progress that you brave folks made it through your demonstration without being harmed. Wow, Florida has progressed more than I would have thought (I once lived there for a while up in the panhandle…which was quaintly known as “Lower Alabama”). I think your demonstration was down in the more ‘civilized’ part of the state.

As I was writing this it struck me that maybe some sort of classificatory system could be established for animal exploitation and exploiters (exploitation includes any use of a sentient being for any purpose). Surely it is the case that someone who is a ‘casual’ exploiter of animals, someone who eats ‘meat’, ‘dairy’ and eggs because that’s what they grew up with and were never exposed to anything different and who also has a dog that lives with them and maybe a cat, someone who is not a chaser of the cowboy fairytale, or someone who makes a profit off of using or killing animals or selling something to support animal exploitation…surely this person would both have a somewhat different reaction to information about ethical veganism and the multiple negativities of animal usage and animal based diets than someone whose complete lifestyle revolves heavily around mayhem and suffering and death being visited upon the other animals.

For instance, cancers are “staged” according to (mostly) the cancer type, size and degree of spread. You may have read about “stage 4 cancer” or something like that. Generally there are 4 stages (there are a number of staging schemas) and stage 4 means the cancer has exceeded a certain size and/or metastasized to other parts of the body from where it originated. Stage 4 is generally the worst.

Well, couldn’t some sort of staging or classificatory scheme be worked out for animal exploitation or exploiters based, for instance, on the duration, type and pervasiveness of harming animals. The duration of the exploiting behavior would be important (it is likely children are more open to understanding the need for exploitation avoidance) because usually the longer we do something the more we are invested in continuing it. Whatever other factors that might be considered relevant could be used to design an ‘intervention’. The ‘intervention’ could include how to communicate with this person in such a way that they would be able to hear the information without being blinded or deafened by their defense mechanisms, what kind of information, how rapidly to expose them to information, etc. Then the interventions could maybe be tested out to discover whether they were effective or not, and modified if need be….and so on.

Sort of like classifying and treating a disease, eh? And, like most disease stuff, prevention is a hell of a lot better and easier and effective that trying to cure…and like some diseases, there’s no cure, only management of symptoms.

Anyway, my hat (not a cowboy one) is off to you folks for exposing a bunch of what were probably hard-core “Stage 4” exploiters to a very different take on their behavior (ethical veganism). Thank you very much.


Anonymous said...

This rodeo/cowboy hideousness also has roots in the genocide of the First Nations and the conquest of this continent.
It's disgusting!! thanks for the post.

Christina said...

I often hesitate to comment on some your posts because I am neither vegan or vegetarian although I am pushing in that direction and making new choices.

I used to attend rodeos when I was in my early 20's. It was more of a way to check out the cowboys than anything else. I stopped going a long time ago, about the time I realized that a sport is only a sport when all involved can give their consent and want to participate. I havent seen a cow yet that looked like they were having fun.

We touched on this a bit at the rescue the other day when J told me about what happened at this protest after you left for the day. There is good reason I dont protest....I cant control my temper. I have just enough german/redneck flowing in me to get really really PISSED OFF if somebody spit their disgusting tobacco juice at me. That is the lowest thing to do to people who are simply stating their opinion in a non-con manner. I would have started a ruckus...and then accomplished nothing but to show my ass.

I wrote about "culture" back when Michael Vick was arrested. That is without a doubt the most pitiful reason to do anything.(see above on my behavior too) Our culture used to include slavery, acceptable child abuse(and still seems to) the abuse and domination of women. I could go on and on. It is a lazy way to think and a sorry excuse for behavior.

I feel sick that your friend and fellow blogger was spit at and abused. She was frightening them in my opinion and they reacted with hostility. These are the same people who hang fake (and sometimes real) testicles from their trucks and keep real duck heads on their antennas. A "culture" of the dull and doltish thinkers.

Bea Elliott said...

Wow veganelder! You certainly have evaluated both my blog post and the root of the whole cowboy myth with astute insight and accuracy. You put the spot light on the whole reality by providing historical perspective.

Reading this post was an epiphany.

But of course their actions reflect the "little boys" inside! And if they never grew out of that fantasy... We, standing up for the innocent ones took away any chance they had to wear the "white" good-guy hat. Their reactions all make perfect sense now.

Of course I realized it had to do with some sort of belief in "tradition" and of course financial interests played a part. But you nailed it: Our presence was ruining their dress-up fun! Just by us exposing the truth it made every bit of their false wall of "glory" come tumbling down!

Ugh! I'm just beside myself the more I learn about the cowboy myths through the links you provided. Hollywood does it's job well in giving the masses a pretend reality to escape to. That's so much easier than fixing the one we're in isn't it?

John Wayne --- Yeah, he was also an avid doll collector... But don't tell any he-man rodeo bull riders that. I was always more of the James Stewart/Alan Ladd kind of fan. I don't remember any "in-juns" in their movies. But I do remember the just figures they portrayed.

The tie-in with the bison! But of course! Buffalo Bill created the Wild West Shows that have through the years become the tie-down, rope, rough-ride, use, cripple, maim and kill "rodeo" that we're plagued with today! I get that now... And I also see from wikipedia that Bill "had a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat." He "earned" his name by killing 4,280 American bison in eight months. Wow, now isn't that a source of pride? :(

I'm trying not to let this be the comment that grew and grew... But you've opened up a well stream!

I came across this book at a thrift store. It's the history of Fort Worth Stockyards by Horace Craig. It's intent is to make people want to "discover" Texas and "cowtown". But by these factual accounts - what kind of tourists would even want to go to such a place?

"After cowboys disposed of their trail herds, they turned their steps to the flaunting dens that offered iniquity in every conceivable form."

According to records - These things followed wherever "cowboys" went: saloons, gambling, prostitution, gun fights and undertakers.

Many train robbers worked as cow-hands in between heists. One, Sam Bass, started up the trail with 2,000 legally purchased steers in Texas but "accumulated" 2,000 more by the time he reached Kansas. Apparently there was no honor among thieves when it came to stealing each other's "livestock".

And the coup de gras during the moving of all these cows from one town to another? The citizens complained relentlessly of the stink, dust, flies and manure that infested their clean homes and businesses. As we can see with today's CAFOs and feedlots, they haven't adjusted their bad manners one bit!

Thank you so very much for shedding this all telling light on these creeps. It lead me to question the residue of "Hollywood" cowboy lore that I probably still had... These fakes and phoneys don't seem all that powerful anymore.

I am honored that you see our actions of protest as meaningful. To be favorably acknowledged by a true hero, inspires me to do that much more for the good cause we are all fighting for.

WE are the good guys! I know we will never let each other down... We're not going to fade into the sunset like some legend that never was! The animal people depend on us that we don't. ;)

And Christina - As you can tell the dust has been brushed off without a speck of damage. Your kind words and this post by veganelder has been cathartic.

(thanx again!)

Bea Elliott said...

Oh-Oh... I'm back! :/

This post immediately came to mind as an appropriate ending to all I've learned and want to say about "cowboys".

Seems the USDA wants to discontinue funding to ranchers who still want to continue "branding" cattle. Ranchers are worried about two things: that their "traditions" might be lost and that AR advocates will have more evidence of the barbaric/unnecessary practice.

Their backwards nonsense never ceases to disappoint. :(

Have Gone Vegan said...

Astute observations indeed, veganelder! Not only are we asking people to refrain from eating meat, hurting animals in rodeos and all other forms of cruelty, we're asking that they drop or alter parts of their identity. And maybe we haven't paid enough attention to that aspect of it. I mean, people in general find it hard enough to change their habits, so when they also feel that they're being asked to change who they are, you can see where resistance comes in. So maybe we need folk like you, veganelder, who have a background in psychology/psychotherapy to help with this? Just a thought.

Love the point about how Bea and her troop were acting as role models for the kids. They probably didn't feel they could say much to their parents, but perhaps seeing adults displaying different reactions and behaviours may stick with those who haven't had all of their empathy for animals wiped out yet.

And I absolutely love the idea of a staging or classification system of sorts. Brilliant! I like the idea of animal exploitation being viewed as a disease (albeit one within our control) in part because we already know the cure. And I was kind of thinking along similar lines a while ago when I thought it'd be neat to have some sort of vegan version of the Kinsey scale, although I haven't worked out any of the kinks yet. Snort.

ddmiller_74 said...

Bea, you and your group of brave comrades are true heroes. You displayed great strength and distinguished nobility. It is truly sad however that the rodeo folks will never understand those qualities. They will only be able to grasp concepts such as dominance, hate, and fear. You're a genuine champion of the animal my native language i simply say to you...MVTO (thank you)

veganelder said...

Thanks DEM for commenting. True, true and true...and you're welcome.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Christina. Hey, "showing ass" is sometimes an appropriate thing to do. :-)

I agree, I think Bea and company were frightening those folks and people behave erratically when scared. I also agree that "culture" is a rather elevated term for such repugnant acting out.

veganelder said...

Thank you Bea, for your comments. Again, my gratitude to you and your companions for speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves (and shouldn't have to).

I am pleased to have rinsed away some of the eyewash about "cowboys" for you. We are propagandized from birth and many never take the time or effort to evaluate the evidence for themselves and establish their own viewpoint on things. I am firmly convinced many of the failings of us as Earthlings can be traced back to this negligence. My friend Bob (a cat that lives with me) is impossible (virtually) to propagandize...he evaluates the evidence for himself and makes his own decisions and stances on things. I admire his clear-eyed gaze on those things in the world that are important to him...we have much to learn from our fellow animals.

The "cowboy" myth is an especially pernicious one because it paints a rosy picture of multiple horrors as well as just flat out lying. Being a "cowboy" was a sort of job no one 'aspired' to and was generally taken only by those unable to do much of anything else. Again, all we have to do now is look with clear eyes at whomever (excepting sanctuaries and rescuers) has any sort of "work" associated with cows and we are looking at an exploiter, at someone that causes or facilitates imprisonment, misery and death to innocent beings...for profit. These are despicable behaviors and deserve only contempt and disdain. They aren't powerful in any meaningful sense, they are craven opportunists stealing from those helpless to stop them. Disgusting and vile.

Again, good for you and your friends...and thanks.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. I do believe more thought being given to the various degrees of investment in exploitation of our other animal relatives could be useful. Presenting information to any audience is often done more effectively if you are familiar with what your audience knows or doesn't know, what their viewpoint is, what they feel strongly about, etc.

Presenting information about Jewish folks is a different ball game if your audience is a bunch of anti-Semites rather than a group of Inuits from Greenland whose only acquaintance with any notion of Jewish folks comes from their having heard some of Mahler's works played on a radio. One message doesn't fit all.

Bea was, by analogy, objecting to Auschwitz to a bunch of SS groupies...which is a stupendously brave thing to do...but unlikely to create any visible conversions and further...more likely to elicit jeers and condemnation...which is essentially what happened. Hopefully a seed was planted...and even if it wasn't...voices were raised on behalf of those being tormented in that grotesque horror known as a "rodeo".

It might be useful to consider the practice of violence as a disease (not my idea...others much wiser than me have considered this). Or at least to consider the degrees of investment in practicing violence as measures of the intensity of a pathology. It is known that animal abuse is related to other types of violent behavior and I think some benefit lies in wait of further exploration of this area. A vegan version of the Kinsey scale...excellent! Cool beans!!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DDMiller your presence is always appreciated. I second your praise and description of Bea and her companions activities.


Bea Elliott said...

Thanx DDMiller! I'm sure you know that whenever any of us speaks against the atrocities, there is the presence of a growing army of like minded thinkers there too. Glad you're on our side!